Stores operated on Indian reservations must comply with state workers’ compensation requirements, the Idaho Supreme Court says.
The court on Tuesday unanimously reversed a district judge’s ruling that the state has no authority to enforce its workers compensation laws on Indian reservations.
The Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Byron Johnson, said a federal law stipulates that state worker compensation laws apply on all federally owned lands.
Indian reservation lands are held in trust by the federal government for the benefit of tribes, but the land remains in federal ownership, the court said.
The Industrial Commission sued the operator of a store on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation, Paul Matheson, seeking to force Matheson to provide workers compensation insurance for workers at his Indian Country Enterprises, Inc.
District Judge Craig Kosonen ruled for the tribe but the Industrial Commission won a reversal of that decision at the Supreme Court level.
In other Supreme Court decisions Tuesday:
- The court upheld Public Utilities Commission decisions in a service area dispute between Eagle Water Co., Inc., and United Water Idaho, Inc. The PUC must approve before Eagle Water can extend its facilities into a buffer area north of Floating Feather Road.
- The court agreed with the Industrial Commission that a forest worker was not entitled to workers compensation benefits after he was killed in a 1993 vehicle crash near Lowman. The commission ruled that Trinidad Mondragon and two others killed in the crash were on their way to buy alcohol, not headed to their work camp.
That meant the men were not carrying out their job duties at the time of the crash, the court said.
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